Fan presence is ‘massive’ – says a man who knows

PUBLISHED: 06:00 19 September 2020

Preston finished ninth in the Championship last season. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

Preston finished ninth in the Championship last season. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Hull KR professional rugby league player and Preston fan Ryan Brierley is in the hot seat this week to preview the Lilywhites’ visit to Norfolk

Ryan, you’re a professional sportsman and have experienced behind closed doors sport – how have you found it?

I can’t stand it. I was speaking to a couple of players in football themselves and it’s just not the same. There are certain players that thrive off the enthusiasm and atmosphere that the fans bring and I’m one of them.

It’s a throwback to the amateur days where you play in front of nobody. It’s changed the dynamic of the game – players who play with that enthusiasm and need that adrenaline rush to perform, it’s certainly dampened that aspect of the game.

Especially in rugby, you’ve seen a different intensity and pressure. You’re more willing to take risks knowing you aren’t going to get booed off.

Hull KR's Ryan Brierley is in the hotseat for this week's opposition view. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA ImagesHull KR's Ryan Brierley is in the hotseat for this week's opposition view. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Images

Today’s game is going to have 1,000 spectators watching. How will that improve the spectacle and how beneficial will it be to the players?

It will be massive. It’s not going to be a racket or a massive atmosphere but there will be some noise there. Even in terms of refereeing decisions, there will be a roar when someone goes down or something like that.

Even if I was playing away from home, I’d rather play in front of 1,000 supporters.

Preston’s season began with a 1-0 defeat to Swansea City last week – were there any pleasing elements to that performance?

Former Norwich City boss Alex Neil has overseen a period of steady progression at Preston. Picture: Nick Potts/PA WireFormer Norwich City boss Alex Neil has overseen a period of steady progression at Preston. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire

I think the frustrating thing for Preston fans was it was a continuation from the lockdown. A slow and methodical approach to the game.

I think teams are cancelling us out by sitting off us a bit. We’re struggling in the final third. We had 65pc possession of the ball but we didn’t have a clear-cut chance and lost the game off the back of their only chance.

We suit the teams that will come onto us in terms of transitions and stuff. If we have the majority of the ball – we struggle to break teams down.

Like Norwich fans can sympathise with, a lot of Preston’s talent has been linked with a move away. Does your heart sink every time one of those is linked with a move away?

Daniel Johnson (left) has been linked with a move away from Deepdale. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA ImagesDaniel Johnson (left) has been linked with a move away from Deepdale. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Images

I think the frustrating thing for our fans is a lot of us saw this coming.

There’s a lot of players who are out of contract in 2021 and we’ve seen this tornado building. We had a really good start to the season and our stock was quite high – from a players’ perspective, I get it. Players don’t love the club as much as fans do.

Daniel Johnson and Ben Davies are good examples. They’ve been linked with Rangers and Bournemouth. We didn’t offer them contracts when they were playing well. Players don’t forget that.

Alex Neil seems to have overseen a period of steady progression – how is he viewed by Preston fans?

I think if you spoke to the sensible Preston fans, I think they’ll tell you they really like him and he’s great for this club.

When I watch games, I enjoy 95pc of them. We should be nowhere near challenging the best teams given our budgets. I’m really happy with him.

Every season we finish in the top half is an achievement. We base our team on working hard and trying to out-enthuse other sides.

Score prediction?

It would be totally Preston North End to get a result. We seem to perform better against sides who like the ball. I think we’ll press high, just to try and disrupt it more than anything. My head says a 2-1 defeat but I’ll let my heart take over... 1-1.

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